Cars of the Northern Group: George’s Jaguar X350

Ah, a Jaguar XJ. The sort of thing one might want to buy as they ease into retirement. However, when I bought my XJ, I was easing into my twenties!

Jaguar as a brand has always been a firm favourite of mine, with the series 1 E-Type being my poster car as a child. As I got older, the love for the leaper never left me; with my parents having driven various X-Types as I grew up, I was always fortunate enough to be around Jags.

The appeal for me is endless, whether you refer to the six-cylinder engines, the leather interiors or the aristocratic looks, everything just seems to work. Having learned to drive in an Austin 7, I was clearly not going to go down the Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa route (both admirable vehicles…). For my first car was, and I still have it, a 1969 Triumph Herald.

Yep, as soon as I passed my driving test, I jumped straight into a 50-year old saloon car with chrome, a wooden dashboard, no airbags and the recommended amount of rust. The story of the Herald is for another time, however, but to accompany the Triumph, I bought a Rover 45 for daily use. Practical, relatively cheap to run and a British marque. The theme thus far has been British made, and a wooden dashboard.

My Rover served its time well, but — as a K-Series is destined to do — the 45 blew its head gasket in heatwave of 2022. With a car down, I needed to decide whether to fix up the old Rover or look for something new. That decision was made very quickly once I found one 2003 Jaguar XJ Sport V6 Petrol advertised on Facebook Marketplace. This, after all, would be fulfilling a dream – owning a Jaguar!

Well, I bought it. A Jaguar XJ Sport in a rather fetching shade of Ultraviolet Blue, sitting on some aggressive 20-inch alloy wheels. The X350 was launched in 2002, the same year I was born, and therefore I had seen these XJs around when I was a child, lusting after their impressive looks and effortless style. The idea I would one day become an owner of one of these machines was out of the question. Or so I thought; depreciation helps with that.

My car then is a 2003 model in sport trim with the 3-litre AJ30 V6 lump in it. This sends 240bhp to the rear wheels via the silky smooth, 6-speed ZF automatic gearbox; the power may not be enough to wow most, but it doesn’t matter. The X350’s party piece is an aluminium chassis, and aluminium body panels. As a result, this five-metre long luxury saloon only weighs 1595kg — lighter than the porky S- or X-Types that were on sale at the same time. The V6 is plenty brisk enough for me, although the fire breathing supercharged ‘R’ would be nice on a dry day, what with 400bhp!

The vehicle is as you’d expect. Ridiculously comfortable on a long cruise, the term, ‘eats up the miles’ is legitimately used with this thing. All round air suspension helps the Jag to glide around on the road; the faster you go the smoother it becomes. Furthermore, we have plenty of equipment too: six-CD autochanger, satellite navigation, cruise control, electronically adjustable headrests, automatic headlights and wipers, memory driver’s seat…

Let’s not forget, this is all on a car from 2003! It still amazes me now that most of the modern press cars that I test lack in so many departments compared to my Jag. It’s not as if the XJ is just a big softy either, as the XJ6 was praised when it was new for driver feedback and engagement. It’s fun to drive! Gets a shift on when you want it to and relaxes you when you need it to. A proper Jaaaag.

Costs are something to consider when owning a senior citizen, especially one with so much electronic assistance. However when I bought this car, I was not overly concerned about running costs — because this 3.0 Jaguar costs £400 less to insure than my 1.6-litre Rover… Mad? Perhaps. Am I complaining? No.

Granted, road tax is £395 over the £285 of my previous car, and the fuel consumption also differs. If you’re worried about costs when you own a car like this, you’re quite justified but are also missing the point. Until you experience one of these cars, especially when it has such a large place in your heart, you’ll never know quite how good they are.

Thus far, across a 10,000-mile ownership period, the air-suspension once played up resulting in a software reset at a Jaguar specialist — at no more cost than a tank of fuel. Additionally, the radiator sprung a leak which resulted in a new item which, at close to £400, wasn’t a cheap fix. Other than those minor hitches, the XJ has been faultless.

Spare parts are plentiful from various sources, starting with used bits from eBay, then working all the way up to Jaguar specialists stocking OEM parts. Other than the addition of a new radiator I haven’t changed the car much; I have installed a mesh style grille which looks much sportier than the infamous crate style and it’s now sitting pretty with my private registration number.

What it is: Jaguar XJ6 V6 Sport Auto
How much it cost: £1,995
Running costs to date: 18-26mpg urban, 30-36mpg highway – Purchased, taxed, insured and fuelled up for less than £3000, £368 for 4 new tyres, £80 for air suspension reset, £400 new radiator and engine coolant including labour.